Business

Social media and user-generated content are playing a huge role in the way that businesses market their goods and services. This shouldn’t be any different for your garden centre.
What could be better than savouring smoked lake trout in cracked mustard dressing at a table surrounded by row upon row of deep pink and warm orange gerberas? Add a lounge singer, a bar full of local drinks, enthusiastic company and flower crowns; you have a night to remember.
Local food, a topic that is, and has been, on the mind’s of many, is a growing industry; however the question of transportation of local food is one that has been left behind, until recently, that is. Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of companies focusing on local food distribution, however Foodshed.io differentiates itself by incorporating technology not only to connect producers and consumers but to enhance efficiency, reliability, flexibility and transparency throughout the entire platform. Their tagline reads: reinventing local food distribution.
Creative growers and retailers are always looking for new and innovative ways to capture consumer attention. This is particularly true in the historically conservative and stoic world of perennials. No longer are retailers simply lining out an A to Z offering of hardy plants, hoping consumers will be equipped with enough knowledge to select the right plant for the right space.
Leamington – How does a first-generation family-run greenhouse land its branded products in grocery stores across Canada and much of the U.S.? By perfecting its growing process, and adding a little Zing!.Jordan Kniaziew, vice-president of sales and marketing at Leamington-based Orangeline Farms says since his family entered farming in 2000, they’ve focused on finding the best varieties and seed selections for peppers and other crops.Since 2013, the family has been growing, packing and shipping its own products — including award-winning peppers and greenhouse strawberries – under the Zing! Healthy Foods brand. “We’re always looking at growing products that fit the taste profiles we’re after,” says Kniaziew. “In peppers, our core product, we’ve seen there’s room for growth in the category overall by growing peppers for every meal – in fajitas or stir-fry, scrambled eggs and as snacks.”In addition to common red, yellow and orange peppers, Zing! offers packages of “chef samplers” under specific taste profiles such as sweet and hot peppers, as well lunchbox peppers. The company has won multiple awards for its peppers and other products including a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food innovation Excellence for its greenhouse strawberries.Kniaziew says the family’s initial interest in growing food stemmed from his parents’ first careers in health-related fields. Kniaziew’s father is a local optometrist, his mother is a nurse and his brother studied sciences. The Kniaziews continue to value a healthy, active lifestyle and they see farming as an extension of the health care field.But an interest in growing healthy food and a proven track record of growing quality greenhouse peppers didn’t necessarily mean an easy road for Zing!. Kniaziew says when the company began its branding process, it had to build its customer base from scratch.Today, they boast a handful of growing partners and a staff team that reaches 85 at peak season and Kniaziew says the company continues to grow its family of products with a focus on maximizing production while maintaining its brand’s superior quality.“There’s innovation not just in selecting the right variety, but in finding the best way to grow it, pack it, brand it and deliver it to the consumer,” Kniaziew says. “It’s important the consumer gets a full experience, and that the product isn’t being hidden in the back of the grocery store.”This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.                                                
Sept. 29, 2017, Alexandria, VA – Plant retailers have a new tool to help boost sales.
The longer someone interacts with plant material, the more likely they are to spend money, says Dr. Bridget Behe, professor of horticulture at Michigan State University. But she’s not talking hours or minutes – they’re mere seconds.
As garden centre owners and seasonal edible growers, our window to capitalize on sales is limited to just a few short months each year. But, it doesn’t have to be. With the proper products and a little marketing, you can triple your edible sales and increase repeat customer traffic throughout the year.
As 2019 becomes the new season, a number of garden trend reports have been released, advising garden retailers on what they need in their marketing strategies for the year. As you would expect, the millennial market is foremost in many people’s minds.
The habits of shoppers have changed. These days, customers are looking for experiences that are more than just the products and goods on offer.
Businesses need to innovate or die. The challenge is often coming up with new and innovative ideas. This is one reason I enjoy travelling. It forces you to be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
As most garden centre owners will know, most gardening activities are not only seasonal but also weather dependent.
Although skilled tax lawyers may dispute the second half of Mark Twain’s famous claim that “the only two certainties in life are death and taxes,” the death part is hard to avoid. The urgency of succession planning for business owners is particularly acute, as declining health might require others to run the business long before the passing of the founder.
Food fraud is a growing problem, costing the global food trade an estimated $30-$40 billion USD in annual losses, and it can put public health at risk. While the term is typically defined as ‘intentional deception using food for economic gain’ there are seven different types of food fraud, as laid out in the chart below.
The business planning process is a critical tool for the creation, expansion or diversification of any business, and it needs to be updated regularly. A business plan is essentially a game plan – a written record of goals and how to reach them. It should describe the product or service offered, customers and market competition, management and financial arrangements, as well as a marketing plan.
So, you own a greenhouse and things have been going well. You know you need more space to grow, but you are unsure of how to proceed. Do you expand the existing operation or do you sell and buy another?
Have you ever sold more than you could supply? For most industries, overselling would result in unhappy customers and a lot of damage control. Fortunately, for those in the business of selling plants, that may just require a call to another grower to help fulfill those orders.
As a business owner, would you invest in plants that you knew would cost more to produce than the return? Without a compelling return on investment, the obvious answer is no, but there is a chance that you might be doing exactly that. In our last article, we explored how consumers attach value to a plant and how that should be considered when growers assign prices. Now it’s time to look at how the cost of production should affect the price as well.
Industry expansion south of the border seems to have slowed for some Canadian greenhouse operators, but others are still building both domestically and internationally.
Trialing new varieties can serve many purposes.Not only can they show off container and bedding performance in different climates, they can also be used to gauge public interest and identify emerging trends. This past year was no exception. The climate from June to August 2018 was warmer and drier than normal, but at the same time was plagued with random intense rain events that affected bloom performance for some of the annuals.
In part I of this state-of-the-industry column, we looked at the most pressing critical issues affecting the greenhouse sector. The catastrophic effects of the ruptured gas pipeline in northern BC, continuing effects of the shift of the glasshouse landscape as it accommodates legal recreational cannabis production, labour availability, recruiting and costs, construction and planning bottlenecks, and the perennial topics of politics, globalization and international pests.
One word to sum up the ‘state of the industry’. Precarious? Bewildering? Exciting? Such a ‘review’ is, of course, a momentary snap-shot, and no doubt by the time this is in print, things may have changed. For now however, a number of critical issues for the greenhouse industry (veg, cut flowers, bedding, nursery, potted crops) came to mind. It was a long list, so I canvassed the thoughts of BC industry leaders to identify priorities.
2018 was a year of expected – and unexpected – change. Labour and input costs continued to rise, carbon levies in the works, and the shortage of experienced labour continued. Cannabis and the renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement left large periods of uncertainty.
Rapid innovation in machinery and computer technology have lowered barriers to entry within automation. New cutting-edge tools, from robots to artificial intelligence (AI), capable of executing complex tasks are increasingly available—and affordable. Of particular significance is that fundamental components of automation technologies are now easier to customize.
It’s finally happened. Wednesday October 17th 2018. A momentous day. The world celebrated the 5th anniversary of when Ashrita Furman balanced 100 ice cream scoops on a single cone.1 Oh, I nearly forgot: that same day the Canadian greenhouse industry was changed forever and the first ticket for ‘driving and toking’ was issued one hour into the new era of legalized recreational cannabis production in this country. In Winnipeg, if you’re interested. So, now what?
While Canada welcomes more permanent resident immigrants per capita than any other nation, the entry of foreign workers unfortunately remains sensitive. But the Canadian agricultural sector remains in a privileged position when it comes to immigration policy and labour from abroad.
Labour trouble in the greenhouse industry is not merely a question of minimum wage. We will not solve our problems by trying to find people who work hard for long hours and do not ask for too much money.
November 2017 – Last month we talked about the looming labour challenge in agriculture, and in particular in the greenhouse sector. The shortage has been identified by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in its report, Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future.”
October 2017 – The best grower in Canada working with the most high-tech facilities with only premium varieties still needs one important factor in place before they can harvest and market a profitable crop.
May 31, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – The Ontario government’s proposed changes to employment and labour laws could have significant impact on the province’s agri-food industry. The proposed changes were announced yesterday in response to the release of the final report from the Changing Workplaces Review.
For the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) in northern Manitoba, new smart farming technology is improving their access to fresh, healthy food in a big way.
In 2013, husband-and-wife team Brian and Roberta Bain opened Saskatchewan’s first commercial vertical farm. Initially started as a 1300 sq. ft. warehouse of microgreens, Ecobain Gardens grew into a 6000 sq. ft. facility with fresh herbs added into the mix. Known for their eco-friendly growing practices, the Bains are shaking things up again with another crop – cannabis.
Veteran Ontario cucumber grower Jan VanderHout is up for any challenge in the greenhouse or farm association boardroom.
June 13, 2017, Chicago, IL – Thousands of produce industry executives are arriving in Chicago this week to attend the United Fresh Produce Association’s Annual FreshMKT & FreshTEC Expos and Convention (June 13-15).
March April 2017 – A pair of longtime industry volunteers have been honoured by Flowers Canada Ontario during presentations at this year’s AGM.
Jan. 19, 2017, Jordan, Ont. – John Valk has added another accolade to his already highly distinguished career in greenhouse horticulture.
December 2017 – I’ve been attending the Canadian Greenhouse Conference for 22 years and this year’s edition topped them all.
Nov. 7, 2017, Santa Cruz, CA – The first crops of tomatoes and cucumbers grown inside electricity-generating solar greenhouses were as healthy as those raised in conventional greenhouses, signalling that “smart” greenhouses hold great promise for dual-use farming and renewable electricity production.
Oct. 26, 2017, Mississauga, Ont. – What is the potential for raspberry and blackberry production, including indoor crops?
Oct. 18, 2017, Vineland Station, Ont. – Want to check out some of the latest horticulture research of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre? It’s just a click away.
Aug. 23, 2017, Vineland Station, Ont. – There’s a plant inside the greenhouse at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) that could change the tomato eating experience forever.
Aug. 21, 2017, Calgary – Nectar, the high-energy 'honey' produced by flowers, might be a brilliant distraction technique to help protect a flower's reproductive parts, according to new research.

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